Despite being totally exhausted, I struggled to sleep. Danny lay against my chest, lightly snoring, his breath tickling my sides. I had only gotten around 3 hours sleep when my alarm woke me, just after six.
"Hey," I said, as Danny lifted his head to look at me.
"You smell good," he said with a smile.
"Can't say the same for your breath," I laughed, and kissed his forehead.
"Sorry," he replied, covering his mouth a little.
"Tucker should be downstairs by now," I said, as we climbed out of our bed and headed to the shower. We washed each other making out a little. I loved this man.
"What's the plan for today?" Danny asked.
"America: First, second and always," I responded.
"Correct Answer for a politician," he kissed me softly.
Eventually, we made it downstairs. My cook had prepared a sensible breakfast. When I say my cook, it was my folks who sent her over for a week. I appreciated it very much, as she was amazing.
"How's Brian?" I asked Tucker, who I had asked to sit with us.
"Overexcited," he replied.
"Yeah, I have seen him," I snicker a little.
"He worships you, you know," I say, looking at Tucker.
"He's a great kid; he brought his boyfriend, Tom, to meet us," he added.
"And?" I added, myself.
"Senator," he started.
"Bryce, please," I interrupted.
"Sorry, Bryce, you, of all people, know how it is for a gay kid. He's opening himself up to so much hate and hurt," he replied.
"Tucker, from what I have seen of your son, he is an amazing human being, and you have taught him well. You should be proud of that fact. He can handle and take care of himself. His confidence, at his age, I would have killed for it," I replied.
"Yeah, he inspires me, sometimes," he adds.
My cell phone interrupted our conversation.
"Bryce, the overnight numbers have come in," Sarah said, as she was, apparently, already in the office.
"Hit me," I said.
"Down 5: we picked up 6," she replied.
"Okay, lets hit the airwaves. Saturate the stations, Sarah; hit everywhere at once, shock and awe," I said, as my blood began to pump faster.
"Tucker, have my car brought around, will you?" I instruct, and he stood up and walked out of the room.
"Do you need me?" Danny asked.
I leaned over and pulled his face to mine, kissing him softly. "More than you will ever know. Come on, move your ass," I said, and he did as told.
"The Post is already calling it for Branigan," Sarah said, as we started our morning briefing. Danny was in the war room, making calls and spreading the word.
The promos hit the airwaves on radio, TV, and on social media. We couldn't have more advertising if we tried. The polling stations opened in twenty eight minutes; and, yeah, my heart was gaining an extra beat.
"Branigan will have the same information we have. We know the states that are behind you, and the ones stupidly behind him; it's the swing states of the south that are key," Todd one of my advisers stated.
"How many people do we have working on those states?" I asked, drinking my very much needed coffee.
"Just over 1100… in each," he replied.
"Phew… We will need every last one of them," I replied.
"Bryce, Branigan's promo is coming up," Dan said, poking his head through the door.
"Turn it on, please," I said, and the screen lit up.
"Do you want a man that sticks by his family values?" the voice over said. The American flag fluttered in the breeze above his home, his family sat on the porch. "Do you want a real man backing you up when things get tough?" the voice over continued, the scenes of the stock-market dropping low. "Vote for morality and the American way. Vote for the star spangled banner, that real men have died to defend. Vote for America - Vote Branigan as your next President." Branigan, with the Flag in the background, fluttering in the breeze, and fades out.
"What the fuck is this real man shit?" I'm now really pissed off.
"Sarah, I want a film crew here pronto. My next promo will be in retaliation," I said, pissed off at this guy's bigotry.
"I need to make a call. Will you all leave me, please?" I said, as I was going to use the one tactic I was hoping to avoid.
I opened up my electronic organizer at the numbers I needed. I made the calls, and was happy at the response I received.
"Bryce, there are two guys in uniform here to see you; oh, and the crew is here," Sarah added, and the office looked at the two Marines that entered my office and shook my hand.
"Guys, thanks for this. You saw the promo from Branigan, this morning. I am hoping you two can defuse his little shit kicking," I said.
"Bryce, man, anything for you, bro," Lance Lomas replied.
I wrote out what my message was, and asked an old friend to be the voice of this message. The Mayor of New York offered help if I needed; and now, I needed.
After an hour and a half, the promo was done and would start airing at 12:35, and every hour afterwards. I hadn't seen the end product before it aired; as it was urgent we get the damn thing done.
We sat in the conference room and waited for my promo to air.
It started with the American flag flying over a battlefield, bombs bursting overhead. "Put a real man in the White House. Senator Bryce Noda is that real man. If you are not convinced, ask the people with whom he served," The Mayor of New York started.
"I would not be here today if it was not for the selfless actions of my Lieutenant, Bryce Noda. I was being shot at, and had already been hit when he came to get me. My unit had already left, but he came back for me. He saved my life. If you need someone to have your back, for me, there is only one choice," Sgt Lomas ended.
"And Son, what is your name?" The Mayor asked Billy Donnelly.
"Major William Donnelly, sir" he replied.
"Go on, how do you know Bryce?" he asked.
"Like the Sarge here, he saved my life. As you can see, I have a prosthetic leg. I lost my leg in Afghanistan, and was left for dead. The next thing I was aware of, I was in M.A.S.H unit. I was told that Lieutenant Noda came under fire and was hit, but he still carried me out. I'm here, man, alive, and proud to have served with the guy," he ended.
"So, America, the real man In this race is Bryce Noda. He has served, with distinction, for many years. Give the guy a chance to prove he was right. I trust him, and these guys trust him. He has our votes, give him yours. Vote, America, vote for Bryce Noda," The Mayor ended.
"Brilliant, my boy," Mike patted me on the back. The Mayor had left to see some people on the Hill, and I was grateful for his help.
"Run it all day, Sarah. Run the other, as well. Saturation time. Shock and awe… Shock and awe," I repeated.
"I feel like I have been at this for 24 hours," I say To Danny, as we took a break. I was in my private office, and sat on a sofa, eating a Subway sandwich.
"Could be another full day yet, Bryce," he replied.
"Fuck, I hope not," my over educated brain responded from the gutter. Shit, my Marine was showing.
The news networks were refusing to call it. They had, this morning, stated that it would be hard for me to win; but, now, they are refusing to discount me.
"What do the exit polls say, Dan?" I ask at the late afternoon get together.
"Depends on who you ask. Mori has you two points down, and Gallup have you level. CNN has you at one ahead," he replied.
"So, as they say, Dan, too close to call," I reply, and he just nodded. At least I have a chance. It just depends on how willing the American public is about electing a gay candidate.
The promos ran all day; my positive ones and his negative ones. Who was America listening to, whose message was getting though. I promised recovery, he promised doubt. There was an enemy, and he wanted to find it. But, who was the enemy? He was blinding the public with rhetoric and some were falling for it. "Vote for the star spangled banner; not the rainbow flag of immorality,". The ass.
I was now getting nervous. The exit polls still stating a too close to call race. Branigan was still spouting his bullshit; and, still, I had no idea if it was working for him or for me.
"What do our polls say?" I asked my team, as we sat in my conference room. Nothing else to do now, but wait. My folks were heading to my hotel at 11 pm, and the result we hoped would be at least guessed upon by midnight.
"Same as the others, Bryce," Dan responded.
"I wish I drank, I could kill a drink right about now," I said, as Danny handed me a root beer. "Thanks," I replied. We still kept a small distance from each other. What goes on between four walls and a desk was nobody's business but ours.
Mike had now joined us, and he had no hesitation in pouring himself a very large scotch on the rocks; hold the rocks. "Nothing to do now, my boy," he said, as he lit up a cigar. "Mike, please, balcony," I said, and he smiled and opened the balcony door.
We never saw the shot, but Mike falling and hitting the carpet was frightening. The blood coming from his temple was serious. The room, for me, went into slow motion. Tucker and Brown came in, yelling, as we all dropped to the floor. Another bullet hit the far mirror and shattered it. The door to the balcony was hit on several occasions. I looked at Mike and crawled over to him. He was still breathing, but only just.
Tucker was yelling over his radio, and the shooter's flash of his rifle had been spotted from three buildings away. Tucker ordered all agents to the location of that building, and shots were being fired at that window.
About four minutes later and it was quiet. The injury to Mike Longo was fatal. He died in my arms. he was looking at me unable to talk. His eyes just closed and his breathing stopped. "Sorry Mike, I truly am sorry," I said, as I cried over my fallen friend. He would have been a great VP.
Mike's body was taken away, and the killing was now the main story on all of the news networks. For once, the Presidential race was secondary to the murder of Senator Mike Longo Republican veteran. They outlined his journey through life and I cried as it was apparent he had like myself served this country for all of his adult life.
The shooter had been shot and killed while trying to escape, his allegiances to whoever would be discovered in the coming days. I didn't care. I had lost a friend and a worthwhile colleague.
My office was now full of police and FBI. My staff was answering questions. Tucker was sitting at my desk, just looking at me.
"Bryce, you okay?" he asked.
"Why wasn't the building secured, Tucker?" I demanded with my head in my hands looking at the floor.
"It's residential; it has its own security. We checked this afternoon and it was clear. We checked the apartment and the occupant was dead, she had been strangled. The security guard said the guy had been dating her for about four weeks. She was set up, Bryce," he replied.
I looked up and Danny was standing in the doorway, a look of concern all over his face. Tucker stood up and left the room; Danny took his place.
"That could have been you," he said, and I just shook my head.
"I never go on that balcony; heights, remember?" I replied, "I told him to open the door, his damn smoking," I added.
"Have you spoken to his wife yet," Danny asked. "She's at the hospital, she had a meeting on the Hill tonight," I added.
I was still talking to Danny when Sarah knocked on the door.
"Bryce, Branigan's office on line one," she said, and I took a deep breath. "Probably passing on his condolences," I said, and Danny nodded.
"Noda," I started.
"Hold for Senator Branigan please," a female voice said and the phone clicked.
"Senator, I am sorry to hear of the attack and death of Mike Longo. I am shocked at what has happened. Allegiances aside, I am so sorry for your loss," he said, and I was wondering if that statement had a double meaning.
"Are your staff okay?" he asked
"Well as can be expected Senator, a bit shaken up… you understand," I replied.
"Yes, sir I can understand, I am pleased you are okay Senator Noda," he added.
"Thank you, Senator, I appreciate it; and I will pass your condolences on to Mike's family," I replied.
"Thank you. I would appreciate that," he replied.
"And, secondly, it is with great humility that I congratulate you on your win tonight," he said, and my jaw dropped. Had I heard him right? But soon, I heard a loud cheer coming from the office area.
"Thank you, Senator. I appreciate your calling. I wish you and your family well, and I promise you, the Country is in safe hands," I said, and put the phone down. I was in total shock, Danny was staring at me a little confused, the cheer from the other room and the look on my face. I slumped back into my chair and rubbed my face with both hands.
"Bryce," he asked, I looked up at him, concern still etched in his face,
"I better get the Executive desk re-enforced and a lube dispenser," I replied with a smirk that left nothing to Danny's imagination.
Danny looked at me, and then the office, through the window. He looked again at me, and I smiled. It was a hard smile, as I had just lost my Vice President.
"We won...WE WON," I yelled at Danny, and fuck the public displays of affection; he jumped up and grabbed me, and kissed me with more passion than anyone could imagine possible.
The door opened, and Sarah, smiling from ear to ear, grabbed me and hugged me tight, and had tears falling, as hard as mine. "Ready for Chief of staff, Sarah?" I asked, and she cried a little harder, and nodded.
"Yes, Mr. President elect," she said, leaving the room as my parents arrived, not yet knowing the result. They just knew that someone had again tried to kill me. The celebration was in an adjoining room, and the door, now closed to give Danny and me some privacy; but, well, my folks…
"Oh Bryce, are you okay? We heard about Mike… He's dead?" Mom asked. "Yeah, Mom, he died in my arms." My blood stained jacket was hanging over my chair.
"Hello Danny, it's good to see you, again just wish had been under better circumstances," my dad said, a little forced.
"Mom, Dad… the exit poll results have been announced, but," I said, straight faced.
"Senator Branigan just got off the phone after congratulating me on my win and to offer his condolences for Mike. I won Mom, Dad," and the joy that appeared on my folks faces; if I could bottle that look and put it away, I would die a happy man.
My dad walked over and just shook my hand. To hell with that, I grabbed him and hugged him tight. He was a little stiff, at first; but soon relaxed and pulled me in tight. He whispered into my ear, "Bryce, I have never been more proud. If anyone was going to break down the walls of prejudice and bigotry, it would be you," he said, and let go so my Mom could hug me.
She didn't say anything, just cried into my shoulder. "Mom, I'm fine; look at me, please" I said, and she looked up at me. "I know, Bryce, you are the strongest person I know. It's just, I didn't think they would see what we do," she said, honestly.
I hugged her tighter than I ever had, despite her having hired a private detective, and having me photographed, which almost derailed my campaign. I knew she loved me; and, I couldn't help it, I knew I loved my folks.
"Bryce," Tucker said, popping his head in.
"Car's here," he said.
"Where are you going?" Dad asked.
"I need to see Mike's wife, she's a senator, too; has been for almost twenty years. That is how she and Mike sort of hooked up," I smiled at the thought of them, and can relate to that very meeting.
"Yes, I know her; she's a very strong willed woman," Mom added.
"Yeah, mom, we have met" I say back, and kiss her, and shake dad's hand. I told Danny I would see him later on, and left with Tucker.
We climbed into the car and I soon realized I had more agents than before. Oh yeah, I won, I snicker to myself.
"Do we know where she is?" I asked.
"She's just been taken home by her daughter," Tucker replied.
"Tucker, tomorrow I will need to talk to you about something, okay? Also, when we are alone, you can call me Bryce; but, when I am not alone, please address me accordingly," I add, as his familiarity could cause him some grief, along the line.
"Yes sir," he replied, and I smiled, as did he.
We soon pulled up outside the Longo's brownstone, and I was flanked by, Christ, I had no idea how many agents. The door was already open.
"Bryce, I'm glad you are okay," Mrs. Longo said, and I could clearly see she had been crying. I mean yeah dumb ass her husband has been killed. I berated myself silently.
"He loved you for your commitment and your drive. You reminded him of himself, at your age; and congratulations on winning, Bryce. He would have loved that," she added and re-took her seat.
"I am going to miss him," I said.
"As will I," she smiled, but forced, she looked at his portrait over the mantle and sighed a little to herself as her daughter sat close by.
"Look, Margaret, I know this is a little soon, but how do you feel about taking his place?" I ask, and she looked a little stunned.
"What do you mean, take his place?" she asked, and I could see she didn't get what I had indicated.
"Be my Vice President" I reply.
She placed her hand on her chest and looked at her daughter, then looked back to me. "Mike would have loved it, if he knew you would inherit his position. He earned it, Margaret," I added.
"Bryce, there are more qualified people out there than me, and more experienced," she said, still shocked at my question.
"Margaret, did Mike ever tell you of our long conversations, late into the night?" I asked, and she smiled and nodded.
"Mike had so much admiration for your politics, and your shared love of this country. For me, it would be like still having Mike as Vice President; as you have the same passion and drive as he did. I am not asking as an apology for the loss of my friend, and your husband, but as a straight forward substitute; and you were always his. Now what do you say?" I ask again.
She looked again for an answer from her daughter, but received a blank stare. She looked at the picture of her husband, and then looked at me.
"Bryce, in memory of my husband, and all that he stood for, it would be my honor," she replied, and I stood, hugged her, and kissed her cheek.
"Good! I will announce it to the party, tomorrow," I said, and bid my goodbyes. I saluted the photo of Mike that hung over the fireplace. "I'll miss you, old friend," I said out loud.
I left the Longo home flanked by what I could only describe as an army of agents. I climbed back into the car and just reflected on the whole day. Mike's death and my… Our victory and a strange thought crossed my mind… That ass of a lame duck president would have to talk to me now…
To be continued... Transition team
Hope you liked the outcome of this story, and now the final installment to come, Transition... Comments as usual firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet @DavidSpowart.